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9 - Phantoms

An Argentinean Cowboy (Gaucho) will become obsessed with weaving the most beautiful poncho. But this will lead him to neglect his family and friends, and a curse will befall him. In the afterword, we talk about the Gauchos, Cowboys, and Vaqueros, and we end we a poem by Larry Thompson dedicated to El Charro Negro.


Larry Thompson, Texas storyteller on the right

About our guest:

Larry Thompson has been in front of the audience is for 30 years. Larry is at home helping the audience laugh learn and let lose. He has told stories on mountaintops and in valleys from New Mexico to South Carolina and many large many large and small places in between. Larry tells cowboy tales, folk tales and home-grown tales I and guarantees to make the audience smile. He has published three books of his own stories including his newest book good jeans and good rhymes; he is a previous champion of the Houston liars contest and was voted least forgettable performer at the 2012 Trembling Hills Rehab Center Friends and Fish Cook off. He's past president of the San Antonio Storytelling Association and is past president of the Board of Directors for that as Storytelling Association.

The Eternal Wanderer of La Pampa de Argentina

Based on the story found in the book: The king of the mountains. A Treasury of Latin American Stories by M.A. Jagendorf and B.S. Boggs, published by Vanguard Inc Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz

In Argentina, there is a particular type of men, and these guys are cold gauchos. They are the equivalent of the Cowboys that we know here in the United States. Now the Gauchos are well known for being great horse riders but also in the old times for being great weavers of ponchos. A poncho is a heavy piece of clothing made of alpaca or vicuña wool. It is a square piece of fabric that has an opening in the center for the head. Then the poncho hangs from the shoulders leaving hands, and restricted.

Once there was a gaucho who was one of the greatest weavers of ponchos in all la pampa de Argentina, the grasslands of Argentina. He was famous for choosing the best colors, the best patterns, the best designs on his ponchos. But after he received so many compliments about his beautiful work, the gaucho soon became a very arrogant fellow. And one day he had the greatest idea of weaving the finest poncho ever seen in the entire pampas of Argentina.

And so the gaucho began to weave, and weave, and weave, and the more he was weaving, and weaving, and weaving, the more he was forgetting about his wife, and children, his cattle, his house that was falling apart, his church, his friends; there was nothing in this world that could distract him from his poncho. Well, it happens that his friends were missing him, and also José el Rico, the rich guy in town was organizing a huge Fiesta. And so one day these gaucho’s friends came over by his house to invite him, and one of them said in Spanish

Friend: Che! Tenes que venir a la fiesta de José el rico, va tirar la casa por la ventana. ¿Qué decís?

Gaucho: No, I'm not going to any Fiesta until I finish my poncho.

Friend: Pero Che, si te falta un montón, vos nunca vas a terminar ese poncho y la fiesta es en dos días. ¿Qué decís?

Gaucho: Oh, I will prove to you that I will finish my poncho in time, and now will be in that Fiesta in 2 days wearing my poncho.

Well the friends left, and the gaucho began to weave, and weave and weave, and the faster he was weaving, and weaving, and weaving, the more crooked, lopsided, and uneven the poncho was looking. But at this point he could not care less, all he could care was to prove to absolutely everybody that he could finish his poncho, and that he could be in that fiesta wearing it.

So the afternoon of the Fiesta arrived, and he had finished that poncho. Oh! he was so proud of himself. I immediately he put it on, and he jumped on his horse, and he began to ride, and ride. Completely forgetting about his wife, and children that could have used to go to that Fiesta because they were starving, but he couldn't care. He was in such high spirit that all he could think about was how jealous everybody was going to be seeing him wearing the finest poncho ever seen in la pampa de Argentina. And as he's riding, and riding through la pampa soaring the skies, above him, there is a big bird that swooped down,, and brushed her wings against the horse’s eyes, scaring the animal to the point that the horse stood up on his rear legs, throwing the rider off.

He was unconscious for a couple of minutes and when he wakes up, is when he realizes that he had landed in a brush, and some weird things are coming out of the brush. And they look like hands with long claws that began to dig into his poncho, into his flesh. The gaucho wants to scream, he wants to ask for help, but he can't. Because that poncho that he is wearing is now so heavy, that is squeezing the life out of him. And then the gaucho heard the voice of that poncho saying:

Poncho: Vos, fuiste un tonto. You neglected your family your house your cattle your church your friends for me. You said that you were going to leave the finest poncho ever seen in la pampa de Argentina. Vos no te mereces nada. From now on you will be riding la pampa de Argentina forever. ¡Por siempre!

And ever since people say that if you ever go to Argentina, a beautiful country, and you are invited to stay at a rancho, a ranch or a hacienda, and one afternoon you hear someone approaching, riding a horse. They are not driving a car, it is clearly a horse, and you go outside just to check who is it is, maybe to greet them or welcome them, but you do not see anybody, that's him. Other people will tell you that when you are visiting Argentina if one day you happen to be outside riding through la Pampa, and by a bush or a brush or just by the side of the road, you find a neglected poncho, well, you are advised not to pick it up. Not even if it looks really beautiful, and pretty from where you're standing and certainly do not put it on because if you do it, I'm afraid my friends you might be switching places with the eternal wanderer of la pampa de Argentina.

Y colorín colorado este cuento se ha acabado.


Very well friends let's talk about the story. First I will like to shed some light on the word CHE, an expression used by the characters in the story. CHE is a popular Argentinian expression, and it is used in a friendly context. However, there are different theories about the origin of this word. One theory tells us that the word comes from the Mapuche language. Now the Mapuche people are located in the South of South America. In their language, CHE means man or hombre. Another version tells us that CHE comes from the Guarani language. That is another South American culture, and in their language, CHE means you. That is why in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina you find people saying Che Señorita! That means you, lady! Or Che Patron! That means you, master!

Now let's move on unto the word poncho, which is a symbol of the gaucho tradition. This note comes from the website It is unknown where the poncho comes from; it has roots in many different cultures. Numerous indigenous people have reported to wear a poncho. Today it has become a symbolic garment worn by the gaucho Argentino, and it is used not only as a coat but as a blanket, and even as a pillow at night when they camp under the skies. In the Andes region, the poncho is widely popular, but this garment can be found from Mexico to La Patagonia.

Distinctive designs can be seen in the materials used to make it or to weave it. Many regions are proud to claim to have a singular traditional type of poncho. Historically was made with animal furs like llamas, vicuñas alpacas or guanacos. However, overtime textiles took over. The poncho is frequently used in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and even in Colombia, and Chile. The size, colors, shapes, and textures distinguish the communities where it comes from.

Now let's talk about the Gauchos. The following note comes from the website on the topic of the gaucho. The gaucho is a nomadic horseman from the pampas, the grasslands of Argentina, and Uruguay. This distinctive character flourished from the mid 18th century to the mid 19th century, and it has remained a folk hero similar to the cowboy. Gauchos were usually mestizos or mixed race, that was most likely of a European father, and an indigenous mother, but sometimes there were reports of gauchos that were just white or just black or mulatos. Mulato is the result of a mix of white and black.

From their ballads and legends, the Gauchos became an important part of the Argentinian culture. Argentinean riders celebrated them in works such as El Gaucho Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez in 1872 and Don Segundo Sombra By Ricardo Guiraldes. In 1926. In the meat 18 century when the British, the French, the Portuguese and Dutch traders provided a profitable contraband business in the frontier regions around Buenos Aires, gauchos began to hunt the large escapade of horses, and cattle that had roamed freely, and bred prodigiously and remained safe from the predators in the extensive pampas.

In a similar way, Cowboys played an important role during the westward expansion of the U.S. Technically the cowboy character originated in Mexico, but American cowboys developed their own style and reputation. Throughout last century, their iconic lifestyle was glamorized in countless books, movies, and television shows.

But let’s talk about their predecessors. Shortly after the Spanish arrived in the Americas by the year of 1519, they began to build ranches to raise cattle and other livestock. Most of these animals, that includes horses, cattle, pigs, were brought by the Spaniards and put to work on the ranchos, ranches.

The Mexican cowboys were called vaqueros, which comes from the Spanish word vaca (cow). These vaqueros were hired by ranchers to tend to the livestock, and were known for their superior roping, riding and herding skills.

By the early 1700s, ranching had spread out into what is today Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and as far south as Argentina. It only took another 70 years for these livestock practices to be introduced to more areas in the West.

In time the cowboy’s work included herding cattle, help care for horses, repaired fences, and buildings, worked cattle drives, and in some cases helped establish frontier towns.

Many Cowboys developed a bad reputation for not abiding the law, and some were even banned from certain establishments.

The typical Cowboy wore large hats with wide brims to protect them from the sun, boots to help them ride horses and bandanas to guard them against dust. Some wore chaps on the outsides of their trousers to protect their legs from sharp cactus needles, and rocky terrain.

When they lived on a ranch, cowboys shared a bunkhouse with each other. For entertainment, some sang songs, played the guitar or harmonica and wrote poetry.

Everyday work was difficult, and laborious for cowboys. Workdays lasted about 15 hours, and much of that time was spent on a horse or doing other physical labor.

So, as you can see Vaqueros, Cowboys, and Gauchos had much in common, from traditions, ways of doing their work and ambitions.

That is why, if you think that the story you heard about that greedy Gaucho is not true, or if it is you will never meet him because he only rides the dusty Argentinean roads, well perhaps you are right. But just the other day my good friend Larry Thompson a Texan storyteller who know a lot of stories about Cowboys, and Vaqueros reminded me that those who live near the border with Mexico, on both sides, we do have something to be afraid of, and it is not the ghost of Gaucho, is the legendary phantom known as El Charro Negro.

And here it is his cuento, narrated by same Larry Thompson:

There's an old legend told south of the border about a shadowy, skeletal figure. He rides a huge black stallion, and wears the flashy clothing of charreada. The legends say he prays on women walking alone on dark, deserted roads - if he can convince them ride with him - well, that spells their doom. Not many folks live to tell of their encounter with the figure - but the few souls who have, help to spread his legend in an effort to keep young senoritas safe.

This is -

El Charro

The stories are told

of the ghostly figure

wearing the silver and black of the Charro.

Straddling a black horse

he rides in the night

Through the deserts of old Mexico.

Not many folks see him

if one crossed his path

The rider would speak his shaded voice,

If they stop and stand

he’ll offer his hand

And the traveler would be given the choice.

A wise man would run

and not take the glove

From this well-dressed, supernatural Charro.

A fool would take it

then never be seen

and his friends would be left to their sorrow.

The Charro preferred

a woman they said;

senoritas y senoras all loved him.

Charm and enchantment

were the phantasm's lure

But damnation would always befall them.

The viejitas are clear:

“If the Charro appears

Don’t take his hand in the moonlight.

Just walk there beside him

and never climb on

You'll be safe with the new morning light.”

But Camille walked alone

To De Agosto

In the lonely deserted night air.

As she hurried alone

On the dark dusty road

Out of nowhere the Charro was there.

He began to chat

from atop that horse

and his eyes glowed red as they walked.

Camille would blush as

she shared all her dreams.

The Charro's lust for her grew as she talked.

When Camille stopped to rest

he seized his chance

kindly baited his trap with "Mi Querida"

"Let me carry you on

my stallion is strong

climb on - he’ll bear us onward from here"

Tired and thirsty

Camille took his hand

and he swung her to the saddle behind him.

Her arms wrapped round

his thin bony chest

She felt it burn hellfire deep within.

The Charro looked back

With fire in his eyes

A bleached skull shown from under his brim.

She smelled his kerosene breath

As the Charro laughed

Worms crawled from his teeth as he grinned.

Too late Camille learned

The mistake she had made

To be smitten and climb to his mount

She struggled to jump off

Que Batalla! Perdida!

She would not be allowed to dismount.

The dark rider turned

and yanked on the reins

The demon beast galloped off outta sight.

But Camille's screams are still heard,

on those dark desert roads,

On the wind - of an old-Mexico – night.

And that is all for now Tres Cuentos warns you to reconsider the obsessions you have in your life.

Until the next cuento, adiós.

List of songs:

Slow Tango by Andrew Huang.

Day of Reckon, Max Surla, Media Right Productions.

She died up there you know by Dan Bodan.

Hanging with the worms and Tango Bandonion by Doug Maxwell.

Moonlight by Beethoven.

Ghost Dance, Kevin McLeod, Creative Common Attribution License.

Inexorable - Creative Commons Attribution LIcense (

Spanish Dance – United States Marine Band

Spanish Rose - Chris Haugen

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